manroland Technology Paying Big Dividends For Knepper Press

At Graph Expo 2010, Bill Knepper, Chairman of Knepper Press, Pittsburgh’s largest independent commercial printer, was presented with an opportunity to purchase manroland’s exhibition machine, an eight-color Roland 700 DirectDrive sheetfed press with perfector. As a student of printing technology, he had been following the development of this equipment for several years before it was officially introduced. He couldn’t resist.

The unique simultaneous tasking capabilities of the ROLAND 700 DirectDrive press from manroland (Booth 1236) make it possible to automatically perform the multiple tasks required for makeready within a single timeframe—the three to four minutes it takes for a press to simultaneously wash all of the impression and blanket cylinders. While that is happening, directly driven plate cylinders permit all printing plates to be changed simultaneously.

Knepper knows some printers who are achieving typical makereadies in the six-minute range with this technology. “Are we going to be one of those? Not any time soon,” he says. “Our customers and the kind of work we do are too diversified for us to be able to achieve the kind of standardization that six-minute makereadies call for.

“After six months of operation, we have cut our makereadies in half and, in a few months, we will be doing even better. But that is not the most important thing for us. This press, which operates at 15,000 sheets per hour, has given us an enormous boost in production capacity and it is forcing us to make changes in the way we stage our incoming materials and move jobs out of production. It has become the standard setter for our entire sheetfed department,” he notes.

Knepper says that this latest acquisition is part of a long-term strategy to leverage the best technology available from manroland to boost productivity, optimize scheduling flexibility, and reduce the cost of consumables. To make these acquisitions possible, Knepper opened a new plant three years ago and manroland partnered with the firm in the move to make sure it was accomplished without skipping a beat.

Today, Knepper’s sheetfed department has three manroland 40" presses including a 10-color long perfector with roll/sheet converter. In addition, Knepper has a Rotoman six-color web press that is frequently used for what others might consider strictly sheetfed work. Knepper said that he routinely achieves 10-minute makereadies on this press, which is why he became interested in the DirectDrive simultaneous tasking technology. All of these presses are networked via the PECOM control system, and Knepper routinely alternates work between them as production schedules dictate. Production bottlenecks have become a rarity.

Knepper says, “I can’t say enough about manroland. We could not have done all that we have done in the past five years without them.”

He believes his company is in a good position in terms of equipment. Now it will concentrate on using the advanced manroland PECOM process control system, in conjunction with Printcom certified consumables and System Brunner analytical tools, to standardize procedures; further improve workflow, quality, and productivity; and drive down total costs associated with consumables.

Is this strategy working? During the past three years, the company has moved into a new plant, acquired a digital printing firm, increased manpower from about 150 to 190, and realized a 39% growth in sales. “We still have a long way to go,” says Knepper. “But every day we come to work, put on our boxing gloves, and rely on a strong will to survive.”